The shooter rang the doorbell, then straightened out his arms as he held the pistol in front of him with both hands. He waited for the doorknob to move and heard a little girl ask, “Who is it?”
As the knob began to turn, he opened fire, pointing slightly downward. Thirteen bullets pierced the metal security door, scattering casings on the ground outside. Eight of those bullets penetrated the wooden front door. The next five entered the apartment through the gap left after the door opened.
When the gunfire stopped, three children had been shot, one fatally. Clara Fields — grandmother of two of those children — who had been on a couch at the end of the hall watching TV also was hit.
The chilling scene that led to the death of 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine in Oakland during a sleepover at a friend’s home in 2013 was recounted in graphic detail Monday as prosecutor John Brouhard outlined his case for an Alameda County jury against 25-year-old Darnell Williams Jr. He could face the death penalty or life without parole if convicted.
Brouhard said Williams was on a “rampage of violence” when he set out to kill the young children and former girlfriend of the man he believed gunned down his close friend Jermaine Davis hours earlier in Berkeley.
“This defendant believes in street justice,” Brouhard told the jury Monday morning. “And for this defendant that means retaliation… the killing of innocent and defenseless people including women and children.”
Williams has also been charged with killing 22-year-old Anthony “Tone” Medearis III in Berkeley less than two months later during a robbery, in part because of rumors Medearis had “snitched” to police in 2011.
It’s a complex story. Brouhard’s opening statements began at 10 a.m. and did not conclude until shortly before 4 p.m. In part, that’s because the two murder charges are unrelated. They took place months apart in different cities and involve completely different circumstances.
It’s also because the stakes are so high. This is the first time in about a decade the Alameda County district attorney’s office has sought the death penalty. As a result, Williams has two court-appointed attorneys — Deborah Levy and Darryl Billups — who are set to make their opening statements Tuesday morning.
Brouhard said he would describe for the jury “the tremendous violence and horror that this defendant inflicted on so many lives.”
That story begins with Alaysha Carradine, whose death on July 17, 2013, sent shockwaves through the Bay Area. Brouhard said Alaysha had been visiting her “bestie” and former next door neighbor, 7-year-old Amara York, for a summertime sleepover at York’s Dimond District home on Wilson Avenue. It was after 11 p.m., but the girls were still up playing while York’s 63-year-old grandmother rested on the couch with the television on.
They were playing “school,” Brouhard said: “Alaysha always got to be the part of the teacher, because she was the smart one.”
Brouhard said Williams — incensed over the fatal shooting in Berkeley earlier that day of Davis — had gone looking for revenge. Williams and others zeroed in on the man they believed was responsible — identified previously by police as Antiown “Twanny” York. (Charges against him were filed but later dropped after a witness disappeared.)
York had gone to Berkeley High and was part of the same group of “close associates” that included Davis and Williams. Authorities have previously described that group as the Waterfront gang, though some neighborhood residents say “waterfront” is not a gang but simply a geographic designation that refers to parts of West Berkeley.
Monday, Brouhard never used the term “gang.” But he repeatedly stressed the close ties between Davis, York, Williams and the still unknown person authorities say drove Williams to Wilson Avenue to retaliate against York by opening fire on his former girlfriend and their children: Amara and her 4-year-old brother, Antione (pronounced “Antwon”).
Prosecutor: Gunshots “aimed down, where children stand”
When the doorbell rang, Amara ran to the door, thinking it was likely her mother coming home from work at Children’s Hospital. Alaysha and “baby Antione” were with her. She asked, “Who is it?” Brouhard told the jury.
“And there was no response,” he said. “Because on the other side of the door was the defendant. He waited and he watched, and he watched the handle of the door.”
As Amara began to open the door, Brouhard said Williams began to fire, aiming low.
“These gunshots, the eight of them, were aimed down, where children stand behind the door,” he said.
As the door came open, the shooter saw Fields on the couch, and also fired at her. Brouhard said Williams assumed the woman was Twanny York’s “baby mama,” according to what he later told his girlfriend.
The gunman fled immediately. According to testimony at the preliminary hearing in 2014, it all happened so fast Williams was able to get back in the getaway car and resume smoking the same blunt he had been smoking before the shooting.
Officer to girl: “Come on honey … I got you”
Inside the apartment, “there’s chaos,” said Brouhard. He described the scene to the jury, as Fields tried to gather the children, sending two to hide in the bathroom. She tries to get Alaysha to stand, but the little girl doesn’t get up. Oakland Police officers begin to arrive, and struggle to find the apartment due to vague 911 calls from neighbors.
One of those officers, Jason Mitchell, finds Fields on the back patio, in shock, talking about fireworks. He doesn’t realize she too has been shot.
“Is there somebody hurt here?” he asks her. “Is there somebody hurt inside?” Fields says yes. He goes into the apartment and, as the siblings run up to him saying they’re hurt, talking about the hospital, he sees Alaysha on the ground, shot in the neck.
“She’s alive, she’s breathing, but he looks at her and he realizes: This is not good,” said Brouhard. He picks up Alaysha, who moans, and runs her out to the ambulance. “Get out of my way, get out of my way,” he yells, sounding frantic.
He gives her to a paramedic, then runs back inside and picks up Amara.
“Come on honey, come on, come on,” he tells her. “I got you.”
As Brouhard played video from that night, taken from Mitchell’s body camera, Carradine’s mother, Chiquita, broke down in sobs as the women next to her put their arms around her. Soon afterward, she quickly walked out of the courtroom with a supporter, though she later returned.
In the ambulance, Alaysha screamed suddenly, calling out, “I’m dead.” As the paramedic tried to comfort her, assuring her they were going to see the doctor, she replied, “Then I’m dying, I’m dying.” Those were her final words.
“Race against death”
Brouhard held up — mounted on cardboard and wrapped in plastic — the clothes the paramedic cut off Alaysha’s body to render medical aid: a green shirt with a peace sign on it, soaked in blood, her little pajama pants, underwear and training bra.
The trauma team tried to save her, Brouhard told the jury, even performing surgery in the ER, opening her chest to try to restart her heart, but she died from her injuries. The gunshot went through her neck, ripped through her lung, and came out her back.
Brouhard described it as “a race against death,” as Alaysha’s body went into shock due to the blood loss and lack of oxygen.
“She basically drowned in her own blood,” he said, as he projected a photograph of Alaysha’s face from her autopsy onto two screens in the courtroom.
Amara — Alaysha’s “bestie” — was hit in the shoulder, her brother was grazed on the abdomen, and their grandmother was hit in the side. All three recovered, though a bullet remains in Fields’ body to this day.
Brouhard described what he believes the evidence will show happened next: Williams went home and tells his girlfriend about shooting the woman he thought was Twanny’s “baby mama.” It wasn’t until the news came on early in the morning — featuring Alaysha’s killing — that the girlfriend, Britney Rogers, learned what actually happened. She has two children herself, and starts to cry.
Williams’ reaction? asks Brouhard: “‘So what. That’s on them. That’s on Twanny. That’s Twanny’s family.’”
Read more about Rogers’ testimony during the preliminary hearing.
The Oakland Police Department began what Brouhard described as an “exhaustive” investigation: “It was comprehensive almost beyond your imagination.”
Leads, however, were slim. Officers knocked on every door but found no witnesses to the shooting. They scoured the area for video footage but found none. They even tested the doorbell for DNA evidence, but were unable to get it.
“For us, it doesn’t always work out like on TV,” he told the jury.
Wiretaps from Oakland case offer clues into later Berkeley shooting
On Sept. 4, 2013, investigators sought and received authorization to tap the phones of Williams, Davis’ girlfriend at the time of his death, Laquana Nuño, and Davis’ cousin Joseph Carroll Jr. as part of the case. (Carroll initially was charged alongside Williams, but those charges were later dropped.) Authorities planned to publicly arrest Rogers — Williams’ girlfriend at the time — to see if that would spark discussion on the tapped phones about who was responsible for Alaysha’s killing.
On Sunday, Sept. 8, call monitors in the OPD wire room began hearing activity on Williams’ phone. He was in West Berkeley trying urgently to reach Nuño to have her pick him up. Just up the street, the annual Solano Stroll street festival was winding down.
Williams texted Nuño that he was about to rob Medearis, and had previously complained to her about Medearis, calling him a snitch, the prosecutor said. A police report had made the rounds indicating that Medearis had fingered an associate when police arrested him following a 2011 robbery.
They didn’t know it, said Brouhard, but what officers heard in the wire room in Oakland was the first call Williams made after shooting longtime associate Medearis near a dice game outside an apartment building at Eighth and Camelia streets. Williams had chased him down the street, Brouhard said, shooting at Medearis 16 times as he pleaded for his life and called out for help.
Read more about Tone Medearis, a Berkeley native and father of two.
After he was shot, Medearis ran up to a home on Page Street. He banged on the window, leaving blood on the side of the house. His hand was bleeding: A bullet had gone into his back, penetrated his lung, then went out his chest and stopped near his knuckle, which had been up near his chest as he ran. Medearis made it back to the sidewalk while a man inside called 911.
When the first Berkeley Police officer reached him, all Medearis could say was that he was in extreme pain. He lost consciousness as the officer asked who shot him.
“He never responds further,” Brouhard told the jury. “He never regains consciousness.”
During the altercation, when the first shot was fired, a bullet fragment broke off and lodged in the face, just beneath the eye, of Williams’ 7-year-old nephew, who had been playing nearby. Williams had been babysitting, Brouhard told the jury, “for lack of a better word.”
The boy later testified in court and described what he witnessed, despite his mother — Williams’ sister — threatening to beat him if he cooperated with the investigation, Brouhard told the jury.
The boy’s mother was convicted of felony witness dissuasion as a result, and the boy was placed in foster care. But Brouhard said the boy is now back with his mom, and that exactly what he might say on the stand is unknown.
Another witness to the shooting is also expected to tell the jury what he saw, Brouhard added, noting that the man had been uncooperative and “played dumb” at times in the past because he was “worried about being shot for ‘snitching.’”
Brouhard shared texts and calls he said put Williams at the scene, and played surveillance footage of a man he identified as Williams entering Walgreens, on Gilman Street, right after the Medearis shooting.
He described how Berkeley Police officers swarmed the neighborhood, and ultimately — with the help of intel from the wire room and a police dog — found Williams hiding in a shed behind a house on Kains Avenue. He was arrested that day.
Police recovered Williams’ phone, which he’d tossed in a nearby yard before hiding in the shed, said Brouhard. Officers never found the gun used in the Medearis shooting.
They did find, on the phone, photographs of Williams posing with firearms and other photos of firearms on their own, which Brouhard projected on screens for the jury to see. Several of those guns were the same type of semi-automatic pistol — a Glock with an extended magazine — used to kill Medearis, Brouhard said.
Brouhard said Williams told two people, Rogers and Nuño, about the Carradine killing. Both are expected to testify.
He also told the jury that neither woman is perfect. Both have worked as prostitutes. Rogers has been in the witness protection program — getting certain expenses paid as a result — and at some point passed a bad check in Reno. It’s a misdemeanor offense but she hasn’t paid the fine, he said.
“Britney has her issues,” he told the jury. “She’s had a tough life.”
Williams: “People want street justice”
As he wrapped up his opening statements Monday afternoon, Brouhard played several video clips of Williams during an interview in September 2013 with Berkeley police, before he had been charged with Alaysha’s murder. Brouhard said the purpose of that interrogation was “to covertly obtain evidence” about that murder by asking about the killing of Jermaine Davis.
BPD detectives Shan Johnson and Jesse Grant spoke with Williams as an OPD sergeant monitored from another room.
In the video, Williams speaks disparagingly of snitches and claims not to know who killed Davis, whom he refers to as his “cousin,” though they were not related by blood.
“People want street justice,” he tells them. Of Davis’ killer, he says: “People wanna do him like he did my cousin. That’s how it work.”
He tells the detectives he never left his girlfriend’s West Oakland apartment the night Davis was shot. Then, by Brouhard’s account, he “slips up,” saying “Me leaving don’t have nothing to do with nothing.”
If he had left West Oakland, he added, and did know who killed Davis, he told the detectives: “I woulda killed his ass and whoever else woulda been there. Honor my cousin.”
He also insisted, in response to questions from police, that he had his cellphone with him all night.
Brouhard said that was helpful. Two different types of cellphone location records placed Williams’ phone in the vicinity of an East Oakland apartment where Davis’ friends discussed how to respond to his killing and, later, the apartment on Wilson Avenue where Alaysha, the York siblings and their grandmother were shot.
Brouhard walked the jury through the charges, showing photographs of each victim as he spoke: the alleged murder of Alaysha, with a firearm, while “lying in wait,” which is a special circumstance that carries extra weight; the attempted murders of the other three people on Wilson; and shooting at an inhabited dwelling. Then there’s the shooting of William’s nephew, and the murder of Medearis, he said.
There’s also the special circumstance of multiple murders, and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. A 2010 felony conviction for assault with a semiautomatic firearm, which sent him to prison, made him ineligible to own guns.
Any first-degree murder case with a special circumstance can potentially result in the seeking of the death penalty in California.
Brouhard told the jury he expects them to bring back guilty verdicts in the case “not because this is street justice, but because you will understand that those verdicts are true justice.”
A gag order prohibits the attorneys from discussing the case, and orders are posted outside Department 13 prohibiting photography or recording inside and just outside the seventh-floor courtroom at the René C. Davidson Courthouse.
The trial is expected to last for weeks, if not longer. During the guilt phase, evidence will be presented and examined. If there is a guilty verdict, the penalty phase will follow. At that time, there can be additional testimony as well as the presentation by the defense of mitigating circumstances that would support life without parole rather than the death penalty.
The attorneys have been in hearings before Judge Jeffrey Horner since November litigating pretrial issues including juror selection. There are 12 jurors — seven women and five men — along with four alternates. A fifth alternate was released Monday morning before opening statements began because she had strep throat, according to a doctor’s note.
Case dismissed in Jermaine Davis homicide (09.17.14)
4 with Berkeley ties held to answer in alleged murder plot (04.10.14)
Alleged murder plot hearing set to end this week (04.01.14)
4 men with Berkeley ties face murder plot charge (03.26.14)
1 held to answer in Berkeley murder of ‘Lil Tone’ (01.13.14)
‘Snitch’ rumor leads to Berkeley dad’s murder (01.09.14)
2 testify in Berkeley murder hearing against Oakland man (01.08.14)
Police announce arrest in Berkeley homicide (01.07.14)
Berkeley community turns out for march against violence (10.08.13)
Robbery attempt led to Medearis killing; 2 charged (10.01.13)
Relatives remember Berkeley shooting victim ‘Lil Tone’ (09.10.13)
Man dies after shooting in West Berkeley (09.08.13)
Killed man was brother of man killed by gangs in 2009 (07.18.13)
Man shot and killed on Derby Street in Berkeley (07.17.13)
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[Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the child Officer Mitchell was speaking to as he tried to get two injured girls to paramedics. He was speaking to Amara York, who survived. This story has been corrected.]